a/n: before we begin the end, i'd like to especially dedicate this chapter to a few people:
i) the anon reviewer who left a message on my tumblr and reminded me how much I loved this story – for lighting a fire under my ass. i may or may not re-read that review every time I can't write.
ii) marcelacarrieo01 – for loving this story so consistently. when I thought people had forgotten you'd always pop in to remind me someone was appreciating. it meant the world.
iii) kait – for demanding tb's every chance you got and actually meaning it.
iii) faerie-gumdrops – for being my eternal cheerleader. you never gave up on me or this story and i swear you love it more than you should. today is your birthday, so in your honor, I'm posting this last chapter for you.
to everyone else, thanks so much for being with me on this journey! I probably could have done it without you, but it would have taken much longer and been less enjoyable.
"I don't understand why I have to wear a suit," Shota complained, tugging at the ascot firmly fixed about his neck. Sara slapped his hand away and straightened the silk piece.
"You're wearing a suit," she said, her lips working around the pin that she had between her teeth, "because this is a wedding and because you're about to beg your heart out. Nothing says forgive me like "I bought this expensive suit for you."
"I've never heard that before," Shota said suspiciously.
"You just haven't spent enough time apologizing." Sara patted the completed tie down and sent him off so she could make sure the rest of the boys were in fine form.
They were not.
Dmitri had to be coaxed out of the couch and into standing position so he wouldn't wrinkle his pants. Xavi had to be talked into going for the umpteenth time. Reiner and Adrian had to be separated by a table, a sofa, and a mirror, because anything less and they would get far too invested in taking their clothes off than putting them on.
Finally, after a last minute adjustment to Reiner's cuffs, Sara stood back and stared at her assembly. The five boys stood dapper in their suits - well, four of them stood, one was lying down again. Beaming mother-lion levels of pride, she wiped her face that was beautiful in a different way without it's make up on and threw her hands up in completion not giving two shits about the sweat stains in her armpits. Battle sweats, and rightfully earned. They joined the esteemed ranks of her tumbled hair disaster and wrinkly clothes.
"Well?" Reiner, thumbs through his lapels. "What's the verdict?"
"I think you are all ready!"
Xavi sat in the deserted gazebo that would be the scene of the wedding in a few hours, but for now was where he was summoning his energy to do what he needed to do. Sara and he had worked all night long figuring out what he was going to say to Laura so he wouldn't look like an idiot. Usually, Xavi didn't need help wielding words, but he was far too afraid of what he might say if he was left to do things his own way.
Suddenly, there was a soft cough and Xavi looked up, surprised, but not really since he had been expecting her.
"Xavi?" Laura said. She smiled, but there was a hint of confusion in her face. Xavi thought he could understand. After all, a strange redhead had just told her to come out to the wedding area to have awkward conversations with the boy who had word-sexed her. Honestly, he would have run in her place.
"Hey Laura," he said in a rush of words. He reached out to help her over the step into the gazebo. "Sorry, this is very bad timing."
"No it's fine," she said accepting his hand and entering. There was the faintest hint of wariness in her touch. The last time they had been this close...well things had happened. "I'm not getting fitted for another half an hour. Was there something you wanted to tell me?"
This was Xavi's cue to recite his long speech about how wonderful she was and how he felt about her and how that wasn't right because she was getting married and that he hoped she was happy and that he was letting her go. This was to be the point when Xavi, the boy who had gotten every girl he had ever wanted, finally let go of the only girl he had ever really wanted.
That was the plan. Unfortunately, the plan wasn't perfect because the plan while designed for Laura did not account for Laura. Even now, dressed in a pair of old jeans and a soft, cotton t-shirt, her black hair up in a pony tail, Xavi felt his heart do the kind of skipping that wasn't healthy.
"Xavi?" Laura repeated, her voice lilted softly in the silence. "Xavi what's wrong?"
He closed his eyes, his jaw clenched, and behind his lids all he saw was red. His throat tightened. This was not supposed to happen. This was not how Sara had said it would go.
"What if," he breathed and his eyes opened again, "what if I told you that I came here today to ruin your wedding? That I don't want you to marry whoever he is. That I want you to be with me. What if I was asking you if—"
Laura's voice cut him off. "Xavi, you know I can't do that."
He thought he could hear longing in her voice. As in she couldn't do that, but she really wanted to. As in maybe, he still had a chance?
"Why not?" he urged, squeezing her hands.
She slowly took her hands out of his. "Because, I love him."
Xavi had thought it was impossible to feel worse about the whole situation, but right now, this was worse. This was a thousand fucking times worse. It was taking everything he had not to just lose it.
She loved her fiancé. And she didn't love him. Even if he threw her over his shoulder and ran away with her it wouldn't matter because she didn't. love. him.
His gaze dropped down to his shoes – borrowed – then back up at her. His eyes, solid bronze, were melting.
"Well it's good that I'm not here to do that, then," he finally said. "Or else I would have looked like an asshole."
"Why are you here, Xavi?" Laura asked, choosing not to play his game of fake cheer.
Xavi spread his hands, acutely aware of how easy it would be from this position to just step forward and pull her to him. His heart thumped in his chest like a two-ton weight. "I just want to wish you a happy wedding. I never got to before because things got in the way. So, yeah, I just want you to be happy."
Now Laura grinned for real, the smile of lateral joy that had beamed into Xavi's heart so little time ago. Without thinking she flung her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"Thank you so much for coming, Xavi," she whispered. "I owe you…everything and I will never forget."
Xavi did not immediately hug her back and when he did, it was as if something inside of him finally crumbled. This was a hug of a good bye. This was how he would let go.
He did not let go for a long time.
Shota peeked behind the curtain. Cody was sitting up at the bar waiting for the reception to begin. She was beautiful in a fresh, yellow dress that flared out from her knees prettily. She had also done something with her hair so the tumbling curls sort of cascaded with order instead of their general entropy. She sipped on a glass of lemonade, contenting herself with bar-bottle watching. There were no people, yet.
Shota stepped back behind the curtain. "I can't do this."
"What do you mean you can't do this? I went through a lot of trouble to get her to come to a wedding of someone she doesn't even know!" Sara snapped.
"Yeah but, you know she hates me right?"
Sara rolled her eyes. "Who doesn't know that?"
"Then you understand why I might be a little hesitant about just going out there," he hissed. "Besides, how did you get her to come anyway?"
"I wasn't the total ass to her. I just said there was a party going down today and she should come."
"That's not trouble. I completely don't feel guilty about ditching now."
"Nice try, Shota, but I know you actually like this girl. Now grow a pair and go out there and beg your heart out."
She lay her hand flat on his back and shoved him outside. Shota tripped over the laces of his nice shoes and only just managed to recover in time to prevent himself from sprawling all over the ground.
Cody looked up, surprised as those who often think they are alone are, but her surprise soon turned to disgust when she realized who was standing there. Not bothering with another glance to confirm, she hurriedly downed her drink and hopped off her chair making all preparations to leave.
"Wait! Cody wait," Shota called out, finding his voice in time. "Please wait. Hear me out."
"I have nothing to say to you, Shota," she said, coldly.
"Right, I know, I know. I messed up. I don't want you to say anything. I just want you to listen."
"Everything that comes out of your mouth is crap. How do I know this time isn't going to be the same?"
"Because this time I care."
"That just means all your crap is going to be cheesy."
She had a point. Everything he was about to say was cheesy. But, maybe, just maybe these cheesy clichés were like those ancient prophecies. Maybe sometimes you had to do these things and hope they would work, because someone a long time ago had said it would. Or, you know, Sara had said so eight hours ago.
Shota dropped onto his knees and clasped his hands in front of him above his head.
"Oh great and wonderful arbiter of my destiny, oh Goddess of justice and all that makes me happy, oh titaness on her throne of majesty! I grovel before you as a lowly pathetic shred of a man. No, I am not even a man. I am a slug. A dirty, squirmy slug undeserving of your presence. I am so undeserving that I am currently aquiver with joy that you have even granted me this audience at all."
"Shota…" Cody sniped. "Shota, stop being an idiot and get up."
"I cannot raise my head for shame of having brought such pain and suffering to my mistress. Would that I were less of a miscreant."
"Shota, get up before someone sees you!"
"Let them! I am unworthy of any dignity. It shall be my punishment for having disgraced and treated you like you should not have been treated ever."
"Ugh, you inconceivable bastard!" Cody approached rapidly and pulled Shota up. "Just, stop it. Your groveling is going to embarrass me and I think you've done enough!"
Shota allowed himself to come to a stand. The mirth and humor dropped out of his face, and for once his soulful eyes and his meaning were in concert. "Cody, I really, really, really am sorry," he said softly. "I know this is fucking lame and stupid, but I didn't figure out how important you were until I realized I could lose you. Until I realized I didn't want to lose you."
"This is too little too late."
"It's too little," he whispered. "But don't say it's too late. I will make it up to you I swear. Tie me up naked in front of the school? I'll do it. Run naked through the exam halls? I'll do it. Post dick picks? Done. I will do everything in my power to humiliate myself and more if you need me too."
She frowned. "Why do all your plans involve you getting naked?"
"I look better without my clothes on," he answered deadpan. "I'm hoping that will curry favor."
A small smile formed in the corner of Cody's mouth. "I still don't forgive you," she said. "You get probation."
The weight that Shota had been carrying around for a week vanished into thin air.
Adrian considered the chocolate fountain in front of him. He didn't have a sweet tooth, but Reiner did. Halloween was his favorite holiday because he could binge on all the chocolate he wanted and no one would care. Yes, he would get the chocolate for Reiner and then later he would kiss it out of his mouth, That'd be a way to acquire a new taste. He chuckled.
"Adrian, you're here!"
Before he could say anything he found himself tackled by the mostly unwanted-okay slightly unwanted-embrace of a very familiar blonde.
"Okay, okay we're wrinkling the Armani."
Lizzy stepped back, still beaming at him. She was dressed in a fetching green dress that made the top of her head looked like golden ears of corn
"I see you're speaking to me again?" Adrian commented.
"I was never not speaking to you," Lizzy rolled her eyes. "I just accidentally deleted your number."
"I was mad at you. Things happen." She shrugged. "But I'm not mad at you now."
"Where's your man?" Adrian wondered, gesturing to her notably dateless side.
Lizzy waved. "Around here somewhere. We're doing famously now. You helped with that actually."
Adrian raised an eyebrow. "You mean, after you both practically cheated on each other with me?"
"You're pretty Adrian. It's what people do with pretty people like you. But, we realized that's all it was. Passing fancy. What we had with each other was, though, it was real."
"Stop, you're making me want to puke."
Lizzy just giggled. "What about you? Ruined, or dare I say, repaired any relationships lately?"
"Funny, you should mention that." A faint blush overran his face, tingeing his ears. Suddenly, he found the concept of meeting other peoples' eyes distinctly uncomfortable.
"Adrian, are you telling me that you found someone?"
Just then Reiner came up behind him and landed a simple kiss on his cheek. "Are you ever coming back?"
Lizzy stared between the two of them. She screamed. "Oh my God! Reiner, is that you?"
Reiner turned away from Adrian's face and smiled warmly. "Well if I live and breathe, Elizabeth Chase!"
"You're with Adrian! Adrian you're with Reiner! I knew it! I knew it! I was always envious as hell of the two of you, but now I couldn't be happier and when, when, when did this happen?"
She dropped a hand on Reiner's arm and whisked him away to discuss. Smart girl that she was she knew she'd never get anything out of Adrian. Adrian noted with distaste, Reiner had been all too easy to take away. And they'd just been getting to the good part of the kissing too. He discreetly adjusted his pants.
"Are all of Lizzy's childhood friends so good looking?"
Adrian cocked his head. Lizzy's beau had made his entrance. He was looking nice in a blue suit, not Armani nice, but nice. Worry creased his forehead. He looked like he was having a terrible day. Adrian knew he could very easily make the poor boy's day much, much worse. He was almost making it too easy with his kicked-in-the-side puppy dog routine.
"Only the eligibly fuckable ones," Adrian replied offhandedly.
Dustin's face fell further. "Oh."
This was the part where Adrian went for the jugular. Made up a story about the exchange student Lizzy had left because he didn't have a six pack. (In actual fact she'd left him because Adrian had slept with him, but that was details, details). And yet, he found himself unable to bring himself to do that.
Because Lizzy was his friend. And she really liked this powder blue vile of jealousy. And as her friend, he couldn't in good conscience ruin her love life. Again.
"You should take it as a compliment," he groused out, unable to believe he was doing this.
"Means the girl has got fantastic taste. And now you're part of the line up."
"Yeah?" Dustin's face perked up a little.
"Take my word for it, I practically invented her type," Adrian said. And then he walked off to free Reiner from Lizzy's grasp. That was enough nice for the day.
"Thought I'd find you here,"
Dmitri started. His eyes were closed but he hadn't been sleeping. The voice that whispered to his ears was at once so familiar, but in a disbelieving way. Like his ears had been straining to hear the tones for ages and only now the sound was reaching them. Did it mean the sound was real? Did it mean the one who had made them was there any more? Sound took a while to travel...
He only just managed not to jump up eagerly, panting like a dog. Pavlovian to a fault. He would be cool. She would ring the damn bell of her dulcet voice but he, he would remain cool. Slowly he let his eyes open and almost forgot his own advice. She hadn't changed. It'd been less than a week so, really, biologically, organically, there was no real way she should have changed, but it surprised him that she hadn't. Maybe because it felt like he had.
"What do you want?" he asked, making his voice crueler than it wanted to be.
"To sit. These fucking heels are murder on my calves. Scoot." She whacked at his legs imperiously. Everything she did was imperious. It had annoyed him immensely before. It still sort of annoyed him, but it was like one of those things. Better to have even the annoying bits than none at all.
Fuck it. Cool. He was meant to be cool. Not have some pseudo-masochistic fantasy about her ordering him about.
He swung his legs down and sat up, shifting over so she could rest on the chair next to him.
"Sleeping around as usual?" she said.
"Not really." Even with the benadryl, sleep wasn't the same. He wanted to tell her, but he didn't. Because that would be desperate.
"It was a beautiful ceremony," she mentioned. Her legs were crossed in front of her and swinging back and forth, back and forth.
"When I get married, I want a beautiful ceremony like that, with all my friends at school and—"
"What are you doing here Murdoch?" Dmitri cut her off. Cool could only account for his behavior in her presence. It was powerless against pointless conversation that wanted to behave like there was no reason they should be completely awkward around each other. That she hadn't just vanished into thin air. That he hadn't friggin' slept.
"Reiner and Sara made me," she said in a small voice. Her legs stopped swinging. "They say I owe you an explanation."
"You don't owe me anything," Dmitri said coldly. "Neither of you do."
"Reiner said, I should explain things. It's only right."
He said, he said, he said.
She wasn't back for him. This was some kind of fucked up sense of duty this dictatorship of a family had dreamt up.
"Look, it's cool. Whatever." He dragged himself up off the bench and began heading back towards the wedding party. "We had sex, you ran off. No biggie. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to make full use of the open bar now."
"Dmitri! Dmitri, wait! Please, wait."
He stopped. Some day he would learn how to say no to the Morans and what a marvelous day it would be.
"Dmitri, I'm sorry. I got scared. I was doing so well and when you, when we…I thought I was going to fall back into the old pattern again. You would do things for me and I would grace you with a smile. I thought I was going to forget what it was like to rely only on myself. So I ran away."
Dmitri faced her, bewilderment on his face. "Have you met me? When have I ever done anything I didn't absolutely have to do?" He let his voice hush. "Murdoch, all I said was that I cared about you, not that I wanted to control you. Frankly, I don't have the energy." He laughed, self-deprecatingly. "Especially now. Fuck, I'm so tired."
He hadn't meant to say the last part. It had slipped out as things so often did when he spoke to her.
"Don't feel bad Murdoch. If you need to leave, it's okay."
Murdoch closed the distance between them. She reached a hand out to touch his cheek. Immediately he felt a strange sensation come over him, a grogginess he'd not felt properly in days. His legs began to weaken.
"I was scared," she whispered. "I'm sorry."
Dmitri's face leaned into the cool palm. He felt his eyes drifting.
"I like you, Dmitri. I just can't date you. Not right now. I need some time."
Dmitri nodded. His head fell forward onto her shoulder. His eyes welded shut.
She needed time. Time was good. Time he could give her without taking anything away.
Sara held a hand up, "Alright, alright, I have one. Why do Adrian and Xavi hate each other?"
The wedding festivities had died down and the gang had assembled in the gazebo playing a game of truth and dare that was more truth than dare. Adrian and Reiner were sitting very close to each other near the far end, Adrian was playing with Reiner's hair. Dmitri was sprawled into Murdoch's lap, just barely conscious. Shota and Cody were pretending that they weren't playing footsie under the table even if everyone knew they were. Even Lizzy and Dustin were there as honorary guests. The only two people who weren't coupled were Sara and Xavi, but they were amusing themselves taste testing the three different kinds of champagne.
Shota piped up, "Oh, oh, I know this one!"
"I don't hate him," Xavi and Adrian said at the same time, then scowled at each other. Shota ignored them both.
"Xavi is kind of a jock, so in some ways his existence is a challenge to Adrian's masculinity. Or rather, Adrian thinks it is. He feels like he has to be extra guy to make up for Xavi and he resents him for that."
"Shut the fuck up, Shota," Xavi growled.
"And Xavi hates Adrian because he's the only person Adrian hasn't hit on yet," Shota finished with panache.
"True! He kissed me when we got drunk on my 14th birthday," Dmitri mentioned sleepily.
"Crawled into my bed when we were at baseball camp freshman summer," Shota said. "Reiner he's been oggling since forever. But no Xavi."
"That's not quite true," Reiner said, choking back a laugh.
"No, Reiner, you can't."
"Come on Adrian! We're healing old wounds. It is time Xavi knows." Reiner looked at Xavi, his eyes dancing. "Remember that ski trip in the 10th grade? You and Adrian rode up on the ski lift with that girl, M-something?"
Xavi furrowed his brow, trying to remember. "Meredith? Shit, haven't thought of her in years. She pinched my ass and wouldn't admit it," Xavi chuckled.
"Yeah, well she couldn't admit it to something she didn't do." Reiner said pointedly. All eyes turned on Adrian whose eyes rolled in exasperation.
"Teenage was an experimental time for me. I did a lot of stupid things."
"You let me accuse that girl all weekend!"
"Why are you complaining? You ended up making out all weekend."
Xavi started to get annoyed, but then nodded. He had made out with her all weekend. It had been a great way to stay warm. "About the sexuality thing, you know I don't actually care or anything right?"
"Good, because I think you're an ass regardless of whether you're gay or not."
"That's funny, I was thinking the same thing about you."
Smiles peppered all around. Smiles and a smirk – love herself could not remake Adrian in any image other than his own.
Xavi coughed to draw her attention back to himself again. "I would also like to announce that I have made an appointment with my advisor to declare a major," there was cheering and hollering, "which leads me to my next radical proposition. I move that we dissolve the League."
The room went dead quiet.
"Hear me out. We made this thing a long time ago when none of us could get a date. When we all just needed an extra excuse to hang out in the basement all weekend. We're all grown up now. Most of us are living our happily ever for nows. I don't think we need the league any more."
The rest of the eyes turned on Reiner, their fearless leader. The one who had started it all. It was unclear what they had been expecting to see in the eyes of the fore-founder, but no one was expecting the look of contentment on his face. As if this were something he had been thinking for a long time and finally someone had had the balls to say it for course, it would be one of the twins. They always knew what to say in the silences.
Reiner raised his champagne glass.
"We've had a good run guys. It's time we found other things to amuse us."
"One last toast?" Shota offered. He held up his drink in a rough direction of center. "To the league? May we never be accused of having Bavarian herpes again!"
"To the league!" the room echoed. Tomorrow it would hit them, the loss. But tonight, all they could feel was the milestones they had passed. They had grown up and it didn't suck too much.
"Oh! Before we forget!" Reiner said, jumping out of Adrian's hair shenanigans. Adrian grumbled indelicately. "We got you a present Xavi. We knew today was going to be especially hard for you so we prepared a surprise. And don't give us that look Sara, we squared it away all ready. All parties are fully consensual."
"I didn't say anything!" she said sweetly.
Reiner leaned down and whispered into Xavi's ear.
Xavi burst into uproarious laughter.
"Who is calling you this late, honey?" Laura asked her brand new husband.
"I don't know," he frowned. "It's not a number I recognize. Let my just get it really quick and see what they want."
He hopped out of bed, and reached into his pant pockets for his cellular phone. First night of their honeymoon and he was answering to other people's demands. After this he was going to make sure the damn thing was switched off.
"Hello, are you the new Devirginator? My name is Agatha Erickson. I am a forty-three year old woman in need of the attentions of a young man. I am very flexible and experienced and afraid of…"
There was a loud thump.
Startled, Sara looked over the bed to see her brand new husband passed out in a dead faint on the floor.
"Hello? Is anyone there? I said hello!"
a/n: it's been real my friends. it's been real. there will be no sequel, because i think i'm out of stories for these boys, but they will pop up in other things i write. once again, thank you so much for everything that you guys have done for me. i wish you the best. check out my tumblr in a week for all the banners for this story! senatorblitz dot tumblr dot com